One of the items on the agenda is HJR 2, a dangerous, unnecessary power grab by lawmakers. HJR 2 proposed to amend the state constitution to make it so that no court in the state could intervene to protect the right to fair hearing of a public official facing impeachment, no matter how frivolous the charge or constitutionally flawed the process. It’s the job of the courts to hold all in our state accountable to the constitution. By voting to approve HJR 2 last week, a majority of House members have made clear they believe themselves to be above the law.
Supporters of HJR 2 falsely claim that they were stripped of their ability to impeach, by an acting Supreme Court that intervened in the impeachment of former Justice Margaret Workman. However, the acting court made clear its decision in the Workman case wasn’t about whether the Legislature can impeach a Supreme Court justice, but rather about that it must be done “according to law and evidence” as required by the state constitution.They only intervened because the House of Delegates failed to follow its own rules related to impeachment.
The legislature held and continues to hold sole authority over impeachment proceedings, and HJR 2 would cut loose future impeachment proceedings from all constitutional restraint. In the hands of a partisan majority, this new power could be abused to oust political opponents without cause, thereby eroding existing checks and balances between the three branches of government and undercutting public trust in the political process.
Checks and balances between the three branches of government are vital to securing and protecting our rights as voters, business owners, workers, and members of the community. When one branch has too much power, it weakens the stability of our democracy.
Also on the agenda is SB 303, Creating Local Government Labor and Consumer Marketing Regulatory Limitation Act. The bill contains broad provisions that strip away local governments’ ability to pass laws concerning the environment, employment and workers’ rights issues, public health and beyond.
SB 303 is a direct attack on the ability for local communities to govern themselves. The intended target claims to be “political subdivisions”; however, due to vague definitions, this could be interpreted to include school boards, health departments, and even volunteer fire departments.
Government is most effective and accountable at the local level. Local communities should continue to have the right to pass laws that are different from the state if local officials believe that state laws don’t go far enough to protect the people in their community.
Public health and safety regulations are hard at work protecting West Virginians from the effects of the pandemic, preserving protections for public health, and workers safety. This legislation removes the ability for decisions to be made at the local level where the needs of families are known best. Unless we act now, our ability to determine what’s best for our families and our communities will be at risk.